Ben Volavola has welcomed Dan Carter’s return to Racing 92, even though the re-signing of the legendary All Black will likely see the Fijian out-half slip down the pecking order at the French Top 14 club.
Despite playing a massive part in his counrty’s shock November win over France at the Stade de France, Volavola, who signed from Bordeaux last summer, has played second fiddle all season at Racing to Finn Russell, the Scotland international brought in to replace Carter.
While he has featured in 17 matches, a dozen in the Top 14, Volavola has accumulated a mere 453 on-pitch minutes and has started on just three occasions.
The arrival of Carter from Japan ahead of the business end of the season is set to further restrict Volavola’s opportunity at getting a lasting look-in, but the 28-year-old is is viewing the arrival of the New Zealander as an opportunity to learn as much as he can from the household name in the next few months.
“I admired Dan Carter throughout my childhood,” said Volavola in the weekend edition of French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique. “He is the greatest player of all time and in Fiji, if we support our national team first, the one that comes right behind is the All Blacks.
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“When I was little, I tried in my garden to copy his shot at goals and this technique still follows me today. I have a lot to learn from a player like him.”
Only in his second season in France following a career that had seen the Sydney-born Fijian play Super Rugby for Waratahs, Crusaders and Rebels, Volavola used his French media interview as a window to introduce himself to that country’s wider rugby public.
Excited to be joining my Ciel et Blanc brothers for the remainder of the Top 14 Season in France. I’m coming back mid season as a Medical Joker. It was very sad to hear about @PatLambie’s… https://t.co/Ari5ZyB9Gm
— Dan Carter (@DanCarter) February 18, 2019
“My name, Volavola, means ‘to write’ in Fijian. I was born in Sydney before leaving Australia as a one-year-old with my mother. We moved to Fiji until I was eight. Then we went back to Sydney where I started rugby. In fact, my two parents are Fijians, but I have a strong Indian heritage on my father’s side. I am a half-blood, like many of my compatriots!
“I really knew that I wanted to become a professional rugby player in Manly, a suburb of Sydney. There, I played for example with Michael Hooper, the Wallabies flanker. Then I was recruited by the Waratahs: I stayed there three years and we even won the Super Rugby in 2014.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) August 21, 2018
“I spent a year at the Crusaders. When I got there, Dan Carter had just joined Racing. Then there were the Rebels and North Harbour, New Zealand. I have a lot of bad luck. Then Bordeaux recruited me.
“I didn’t succeed what I wanted to accomplish with them. I wasn’t good enough and the club decided to release me before the end of my contract. It was then that Racing extended my hand.”
Volavola’s career as a professional rugby player makes him celebrity in his own right. However, in the past two years he has got to know what the celebrity status is like in the movie world as he has been dating American actress Shailene Woodley.
“In Fiji two years ago I was competing in the Pacific Nations Cup and she was filming the film Adrift. Filming continued in New Zealand. It was fine, I was playing at the time for North Harbour, so we continued to see each other and now we live together in Paris. I’m blessed to have met a girl like her.
— Adrift Movie (@AdriftMovie) September 7, 2018
“Before me, she had never watched sports on TV. Since then, she has started to learn the rules of rugby. She even comes to see us at the Arena,” he said, admitting he imagines his own acting skills would leave much to be desired.
“I’m a real catastrophe… I’m already very bad when I’m interviewed on camera to talk about my sport, so I don’t even imagine what it would be if I was asked to play someone other than me.”
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